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Spinach Spaetzle

Monday, March 1, 2010
Spinach Spaetzle

DICK: I guess it looks as if you're reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?
ROB: No...
DICK: Not alphabetical...
ROB: Nope...
DICK: What?
ROB: Autobiographical.
DICK: No fucking way!
(J. Cusack & T. Louiso, High Fidelity)

If I had to reorganize my recipes in autobiographical order, just like John Cusack does with his records in High Fidelity, with no doubt I'd put this in the section College Years. With less than 10,000 Liras you could make dinner for eight people, and it was always a success despite the little familiarity with cooking matters. You would never deny a bowl of Spaetzle to anybody: unpretentious and with no frills, they would instantly create a party atmosphere (big or small, it depended on the number of hours to the final divided by the number of pages yet to be read).
The proper tool came straight from my hometown, and at that time it was the only eccentric concession in a frightening yellow kitchen, that has served too many times as stage for endless scopone scientifico tournaments (traditional Italian card game, N/A) where losers were condemned to wash the dishes for the rest of the week.
Those were the days! There was no Maldon Salt nor High Gluten Flour, fish was a terrifying thought and eggplants were considered an exotic vegetable. And on we went with Spaetzle and Spritz with the olive, everything we wanted was in only four ingredients.
Now I know for sure that these Spaetzle (or Small Spinach Gnocchi, as us profane were used to call them) had been my own ruin, marking the unaware beginning of this culinary madness.

And just like John Cusack in High Fidelity, I too have compiled my own Top Five list. Here are the five flavors that, eyes closed, bring me straight back to my twenties, when it seemed like the world was split between architects and business men, while in the middle lived a whole bunch of Latinists, marine biologists, interpreter from Russian, bookworms, archaeologists, accountants, furious chemists, incurable romantics, paleontologists, mathematicians, oboists, glottologists and aspiring journalists.

5) The Spritz (Aperol with olive, thanks): at 1,500 Liras during happy hour, it was a real attack at public peace;

4) Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and black olives: that is, the real taste of summer, so popular that someone would even have leftovers for breakfast (not me, it was the architect friend who would never leave us alone);

3) The aforementioned Spaetzle, strictly dressed with butter and parmigiano cheese. Why bother exploring alternatives when this dressing seemed to be the absolute perfection?

2) The custard-filled manina: considered a real luxury for breakfast, the manina could always keep your hopes alive. Warm and buttery, it would reconcile you with the world even when sirens were screaming the beginning of high tide and inside our apartment wind draughts coming who knows from where made the old gas heater seem useless and ridiculous. It helped a lot indeed the fact that right there, in the bakery one floor down, they were selling the best manina of the whole lagoon. Just one flight of stairs, you didn't even need to wear shoes. Is it your turn today?, one would ask right after waking up. Just the time to make coffee;

1) The first place, by common consent of critics and consumers, goes to the one and only Tonolo's Bigne': a true establishment for Venice student population, reward and price to pay for having passed the test, a difficult choice among top 3 (vanilla, coffee or gianduia flavored pastry cream?), a must stopping place coming out of Ca' Foscari (a Venetian palace, where some classes were held, N/A) in those foggy afternoons. Tonolo was able to join in a unanimous chorus all the aforementioned architects, business men, Latinists, marine biologists, interpreter from Russian, bookworms, archaeologists, accountants, furious chemists, incurable romantics, paleontologists, mathematicians, oboists, glottologists and aspiring journalists. Every argument would end in front of its bigne' and - allow me, please - sometimes even in front of its zabaglione-filled fritters.
(see the following comments on the bottom of Pasticceria Tonolo, Facebook Official Fan Page and Appassionati di Tonolo, Non Official Facebook Group:
Tonolo Prperty of Mankind, by M. Gianola, Tonolo Fan; Thanks for being!, by A.K. Bidorini, Tonolo Fan; After 4 years I've been able to eat two fritters filled with Chantilly cream, even living abroad... I was moved!! , by V. Battain, Tonolo Fan; Yesterday I've discovered the bigne' filled with Chantilly cream... my life will never be the same!, by S. Vedova, Tonolo Fan; Tonolo does it better!, by M. Casarin, Tonolo Fan; Utmost respect., by F. Giacometti, Tonolo Fan; Tonolo's bigne' are my drug! The chocolate one is a natural anti-depressant!!, by R. Perenzin, Tonolo Fan; I LOVE Tonolo!!, by V. Massetti, Tonolo Fan; My deepest appreciation to whoever founded this group. And to Tonolo's Sacher, of course, by G. Zornetta, Tonolo Fan).

Pardon the digression, if I remember correctly we were talking about Spaetzle...

Spinach Spaetzle
for 4-5 people

fresh spinach, net about 300 gr.
eggs 3
flour varies, depending on the dough (about 250-300 gr.)
salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste
butter, parmigiano cheese or ricotta salata to dress them to taste


This is one of the very few recipes that I make without a scale, but this time, only for the benefit of the blog, I decided to weigh the spinach. I would have weighed the flour as well, but it slipped out of my hand...
Rinse and dry spinach, discard the toughest stems and puree them in a food processor. Add eggs, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg and then start adding the flour until you get a firm but still moist dough. It's better to do a test, making two small round gnocchi out of the dough and cooking them in boiling water for few minutes: if they hold up, the dough is ready; otherwise you should add a little more flour.
Using the proper Spatzle-maker, set on top of the pot with the boiling water, make the Spaetzle and let them drop in the water, cooking them for two or three minutes. Drain them and dress with melted butter and freshly grated parmigiano cheese.
Spaetzle can also be frozen: simply run them under cold water as soon as you drain them, so that they won't cook any longer, and then divide them in few freezer bags.

[...] facciamo un cambio, prenditi pure
quel po' di soldi, quel po' di celebrità.
Ma dammi indietro la mia seicento,
i miei vent'anni e una ragazza che tu sai.
Milano scusa stavo scherzando,
luci a San Siro non ne accenderanno più.


[...] let's do a swap, you take
that little money, that little fame.
But give me back my Six Hundred (name of an old FIAT car, N/A)
my twenties and a girl you know.
Milan, sorry, I was just joking,
lights in San Siro, they'll never turn them on again.


(R. Vecchioni, Lights in San Siro)
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